Elder abuse can take a variety of forms. Family members, including spouses, can be guilty of elder abuse.
This can include the conditional and physical abuse that most people think of, as well as having the elder person directly give them assets; make them the power of attorney; and or rewriting estate planning documents to provide (more) for the abuser.
However, a lot of elder abuse is financial and committed by people who are not related or close to the individual. Caregivers make up the largest portion of these individuals. Obviously, they need to be screened. Agencies are helpful. However, they are not perfect. You need to talk to the candidate’s references.
Caregivers must be given complete trust be the elderly individual that they are working with as well as their family members that they are working for. This is because they have so much control, are often unsupervised, and are given many opportunities to take advantage of the situation. Everything in the house is “fair game.” Jewelry is easy to take because it often will not be noticed for a while. While some people keep their good jewelry in their safe deposit box, this is less true today than it was twenty or more years ago. Ideally, the jewelry should be kept in a locked drawer or box, and it should be cataloged.
Similar to the caregiver, people entering your house to do repairs, should be “checked out.” Has a friend used the handyman? How about the plumber, or electrician? I am not suggesting that a full scale background check be done on each person, but you must be satisfied that the individuals walking into your house are honest people.
While this is a cautionary post, I would like to note that the vast majority of caregivers are honest, caring and hard working people. I have seen that caregivers that have worked for friends of the elder person are often a way to go. In my own family, we are utilizing a family that previously worked for my uncle. They are amazing!
You may wish to arrange to have the monthly statements you are sent also sent to an adult child; family member; or advisor. It never hurts to have someone else monitor to make certain that nothing bad is taking place. If financial or any other form of abuse has occurred, it will be ascertained much sooner if someone else is monitoring the financial statements.
While this list is not exhaustive, as an estate planning attorney, I cannot stress enough how many times I have been called after elder abuse has been committed. I hope that in urging a more proactive approach I will receive a lot less of those calls.
Estate Planning and Probate Attorney, Manhattan Beach Local, Sports Enthusiast